‘Resume Check‘ is a term that writer and author Touré coins with that he says is a tendency for people with social privileges, usually white and/or male, to question people of color and women who enter a certain space where most or all of the people are of a certain race or gender or have acknowledged a particular like that is usually seen as something only certain races and genders like. Touré discusses a particular moment where a staff member of a magazine who is a black woman was questioned by a white male writer:
…At a recent conference in Boston, the white writer Gay Talese asked the Black New York Times Magazine staffer Nikole Hannah-Jones if she was truly a New York Times Magazine staffer and who over there hired her and why.
You would think that with all of these questions Talese must work for the Times. He does not. Despite that, he was determined to perform what I call the resume check. That’s when a white man asks you to prove you belong. There’s a difference between being curious about a person’s journey and all but telling that person that you don’t understand how someone who looks like them could have gotten that job. Hannah-Jones is clear that Talese wanted her to prove herself to him. “I felt defensive,” she told a writer from Rewire. “I feel like I’ve been explaining why I’m in a room where apparently people think I’m not supposed to be most of my life, so I know when someone is asking me that question.”
Even though Talese didn’t work for the Times, he felt authoritative enough to question why a black woman was present at a conference. White males have the privilege of being viewed as competent, qualified and worthy of authority in almost any given setting.
Reading this, I’m reminded of the affirmative action arguments racists make when they are threatened by black people in high positions. They believe that blacks only ‘made it’ because they are benefiting from skin color due to an unfair policy against whites, never because they actually worked hard. Then again, most racists don’t believe that black folks work hard anyway.
So, a black person in an executive position, like say…the Office of President of the United States, inherently doesn’t belong there. Que the endless stream of bullshit racist excuses.
I also think back to reading about women attending gatherings like Comic Con. There’s a stereotype by many male sci-fi and comic book fans that women are not into either. Even male comic book writers and artists believe this. But that’s not too surprising when you see how female superheroes are portrayed.
That’s why a lot of the female characters in fantasy media are sexualized in some way. But I digress.
Women who attend these conventions wearing the costume of their favorite character are sometimes interrogated by fan boys as to who the character is. They would quiz them on the back-story of that character not to out of fun – not for the female cosplayer at least – or for small talk, but to see if she ‘belongs’ at the convention and have a right to wear her costume.
There are few spaces where people of color and women can go without being questioned as to why they exist in a particular area or feel threatened in general. The adversity they face is that their presence is suspect even if they haven’t done anything wrong. But to privileged groups, the fault lies in those people for making whites and/or males cynical just by being there due to racial and gender biases this world has yet to confront.